Wine gets all the love when it comes to drink pairing with cheeses, so much so that whiskey gets left on the shelf, its smooth burn and warm embrace forgotten. You might be surprised by how well your favorite grain spirit compliments the fine cheeses you love, or better yet, how the cheese can open up the whiskey’s potential. As the holiday season approaches and family and friends gather together, consider setting the table with a bottle of whiskey and a plate of delicious cheese.
Some people are put-off by the idea of whiskey and cheese, but consider the consistencies in flavor between them: nuttiness, fruity notes, smoky finish – the flavors are as complimentary as they can be contrasting. Pairing a sweeter whiskey, such as Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack, with an aged cheddar can offer a savory and delicious contradiction. Alternatively, whiskey paired with a fig goat-cheese can create a symphony on the palate in which the sweet flavors sing together in harmony.
The discerning wine enthusiast could rattle off the best cheese pairings for your favorite Malbec or Bordeaux, but deferring to whiskey can, potentially, offer a broader range of bold flavors with which to pair. The sweetness of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, the peaty smoothness of a single malt Scotch, the spicy grip of a good rye (I recommend Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye) – a selection that just scrapes the surface of the whiskeys available and their unique flavor profiles and tasting notes.
Neat or in the Mix
Another element of whiskey and cheese pairing is the option to pair with cocktails rather than neat pours only. The purists may steer clear of this idea, but classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, touting flavors of cherry and orange, can boost the pairing experience with additional fruit flavors, layering the complexity. Try it both ways and get creative. Maybe avoid pairing cheese with mixers like Jack & Coke, but your choice of cheese followed by a neat pour of Jack Daniel’s or a Tennessee Mule might just be the pairing you never knew you needed.
Best Served with Company
Like any respectable evening of sampling spirits and cheese, be sure to invite some guests with discerning palates. Arrange a selection of cheeses and whiskeys so you can mix freely and creatively, but don’t go overboard, and maybe just stick to three of each. Chat and sample, and decide what suits your tastes. You never know, you might just find your new favorite after-dinner indulgence.
Why Not Both?
Don’t get so caught up in the whiskey side of sampling that you forget that you don’t have to exclude wine from the mix entirely. Both drinks have their rightful places aside the cheese board, and you’ll enjoy some of your favorite combinations when you respect the spirits’ individual strengths and weaknesses among your favorite cheeses. Remember to relax and have fun. Sit back, fill your glass, and just for a moment, let your whiskey and wine do the talking.